Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton Plan Commission views 1100N PUD concept skeptically

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The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission is taking a skeptical view of PSR LLC’s concept for a proposed planned unit development south of 1100N and across the street from Dogwood Park.

PSR appeared before the commission at its meeting Thursday night for an informal concept review, the first stage in the PUD process following the Town Council’s annexation of the 58 acres earlier this summer. At the time, council members made it clear that the annexation was in no way an endorsement of the proposed PUD but simply the only way in their power to exercise control over the development.

At Thursday’s meeting, PSR’s attorney, Greg Babcock, told planners that PSR wants to build 37 single-family homes and two commercial buildings of 4,050 square feet each. The commercial buildings would be located at the far west end of the property and would be zoned, according to the proposed PUD, B-3, the most intense commercial zone in the Chesterton Zoning Ordinance. Babcock also said that there would be five “access points” to the PUD off 1100, three of them “T-driveways” which would be maintained by the property owners association.

Babcock suggested that, by his own inventory of available rental units in Chesterton, there is a need for “quality office space in town.” He added that he understands that, while “the neighbors are concerned” about the prospect of B-3 along 1100N, “we believe there is a market for good upscale office space.”

However, Babcock also provided planners with a list of other possible B-3 uses for the two commercial buildings, including greenhouse, plant nursery, antique shop, furniture shop, gift shop, drug store, coin laundry, convenience store, restaurant, child care center, tanning salon, funeral home, and church.

Planners wasted no time in expressing their concerns about the concept. “That whole area, whether you like it or not, is residential,” Jim Kowalski said. “And now you want to throw commercial into it. You’re going to have to prove to this board why you actually need the commercial structures, why you need commercial structures to make a go of it. That’s taking the residential quality out of the neighborhood.”

Planner Cassi Hammar contested Babcock’s suggestion that the town needs more commercial space, and noted that, under the Chesterton Comprehensive Plan as it stands now and as it’s being revised, that stretch of 1100N is in no way designated for commercial uses of any kind. In any case, she said, “there are areas in town where there is commercial land available for commercial development.”

Planner Fred Owens, on the other hand, saw no real issue with the construction of two commercial buildings and compared it favorably to the mixed-use concept implemented with varying degrees of success at Coffee Creek Center. “The commercial I don’t think is something alien,” he said. “I think it works.”

Kowalski disagreed. “Commercial and residential have to lend itself,” he said. “This area I don’t think lends itself. Coffee Creek Center is a different animal entirely. Apples and oranges.”

Planners also cocked their collective eye at the five separate road cuts. “Can we get a fire engine into one of the T-driveways and get it turned around?” she asked Fire Chief John Jarka.

“I don’t think so,” Jarka said. The engine would have to be backed out. Or hoses would have to be laid from the other side of 1100N.

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell noted that both Police Chief Dave Cincoski and Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg have strong reservations about the T-driveways. “I think we have to get outside the box on this,” he said.

Darnell in particular wanted to know why none of the roadcuts is aligned either with 23rd Street, which dead-ends at the property, or with the 1100N driveway for Dogwood Park.

“I hate to say it, but that’s more an engineering question,” Babcock said.

Darnell wasn’t done yet, though. As she remembered the original concept, the two commercial buildings were sited in the middle of the development, with the residential units clustered around them. Why now have they been pushed to the far west end, abutting the property of unincorporated Liberty Township residents? “We’re supposed to be stewards of the community and you put commercial there,” she said. “Those are our neighbors too.”

Planner Dan Marchetti had one other concern: drainage. “Has a study been done to see if the detention pond would work?” he asked.

Babcock conceded that there is a ditch on the property--which neither the town nor the county has jurisdiction over--that has “caused some problems we have to address.” But drainage, he added, is “part of the PUD process we have to talk about.”

Planners took no action on Thursday except to voice their concerns. The next step: PSR must file a petition for a preliminary hearing.


Posted 8/21/2020




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